Columbus council rejects option for higher tax rate

Published 6:07 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The 42-cent tax rate would have brought in approximately $43,000 more in ad valorem&bsp; and vehicle tax revenue from the current year&squo;s approved budget. Columbus budgeted this year to bring in $410,000 in property tax and $31,000 in vehicle tax for a total of $441,000.

A tax rate of 42 cents per $100 of valuation would have brought in an estimated $484,317, including property and vehicle tax revenue next year. A tax rate of 39 cents will bring in an estimated $449,723. Both of those estimates are based on a 96 percent collection rate.

Both budget proposals include a three percent increase in sewer rates, but no increases in any other services. The 39 cent proposal is still uncertain due to the possibility of the county keeping the same tax rates for its fire departments. If so, the town would have to absorb approximately $8,000 to fulfill a request from its fire department, so the town&squo;s tax rate would go to 40 cents.

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Columbus&squo; current tax rate is 45 cents and after the recent property revaluation, the towns and the county can drop their tax rates to offset the rise in property values.

Council members Michael Gage and Margaret Metcalf objected to Columbus&squo; recommended 42-cent tax rate and asked for town manager Tim Holloman to look at cuts to bring in the same amount of revenue as the current year.

At one time last month, council members Ricky McCallister and Richard Hall as well as Mayor Kathleen McMillian voted and approved the town going forward with the 42-cent proposal. But during council&squo;s meeting in May, council came to a consensus that the 39-cent proposal was the best for Columbus.

The 42-cent proposal included approximately $45,000 in salary increases, with Holloman explaining that Columbus employees are underpaid compared to other towns its size.

The 39-cent proposal includes salary increases being held off until January 1 instead of July 1, which would cut the expense in half. Holloman told council members recently that if the town was in good shape financially come Jan. 1 the increases could happen and if not, the salary increases would not occur.

Columbus will hold a public hearing on the 39-cent proposal on June 18 at 7 p.m.